St. Patrick came out the gates firing with its passing game Friday night, but the East Marion Eagles adjusted in the second quarter and ran away with their fourth straight win 40-17.
The Eagles (5-2, 2-0) surrendered 17 early points on the Fighting Irish’s first three drives but shut them out the rest of the way thanks to a relentless pass rush and a secondary that kept itself in great position to make plays on the ball. All seven of the Eagles’ sacks came after the first three drives, with Carlos Stubbs notching three and Martez Mikell two. They also had six pass breakups from that point on as well, with Donta Newton having three.
“It’s a good thing for us to respond the way we did to get back in the groove, but we have to be more focused and zoned in when the game starts because that can get you in trouble when you start off slow,” head coach Kevin Jackson said. “We started off slow this past Friday, but we were fortunate enough to be able to gain our composure and take charge of the game.”
It also helped that senior quarterback Devin Daniels was easily the best player on the field, completing 5-of-6 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 176 yards and two scores on just six carries.
“Right now he’s throwing the ball pretty good, and of course running the ball is his greatest asset. He’s doing both right now at a high level, and we’ll need that from him week in and week out,” Jackson said.
After playing four of their last five games on the road, the Eagles return home Friday night to take on Collins (2-5, 1-0), who is coming off of a 16-0 win over North Forrest. Collins is known for being an athletic team, and Jackson said this year’s version of the Tigers is no different.
“They have some little running backs that are very athletic, and we’ve got to make sure we get them to the ground because they can go the distance on any play. It’s a very athletic team. They can run so it’s going to be a good matchup for us,” Jackson said. “It’s going to take 48 minutes to win this game by either team. We have to get prepared this week mentally and physically and be ready to play our best game of the year.”
Last year the Eagles reached the south state championship in Class 1A without getting to host a playoff game, and Jackson said it would be a big deal to get to 3-0 in Region 8-2A with a win over Collins with just one district game left next week.
“We’re looking forward to hosting a home game this year in the playoffs,” he said.
St. Patrick (5-3, 0-2) started the game off Friday with a series of short passes before quarterback Adam Ritter rolled to his left, threw on the move while getting drilled and connected with Landen Petersen for a 41-yard touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.
Daniels guided the Eagles back down the field with his arm and his legs and answered with a 26-yard touchdown strike to Stubbs. Daniels then pulled a Houdini act on the two-point conversion where he literally made 11 defenders miss, some more than once, before powering his way into the end zone to give East Marion an 8-7 lead.
The Fighting Irish responded with a 37-yard field goal before Daniels did it again. Facing a 3rd-and-7, Daniels scrambled to his left and made 10 defenders miss this time for a 74-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles on top 16-10. He had cut back to the middle of the field, turned on the burners to get back to the sideline and broke three consecutive tackles around the 15-yard-line while staying in bounds to get into the end zone.
Then it was Ritter’s turn to showcase his arm again, connecting with Kaleb Chatman for a 30-yard score while rolling to his left, to put St. Patrick up 17-16 early in the second quarter. From that point on, though, it was all Eagles.
On East Marion’s first play of the ensuing drive, Daniels connected with Amere Woodham on a deep ball before Woodham reversed field and took it the distance for a 62-yard touchdown. Woodham had slow played his release from the slot before turning on the jets to get past the defender.
“It’s really nice to be able to have someone be able to run down the field and catch a deep ball. Amere has slowly developed into that guy,” Jackson said. “He had a big catch against Morton a few weeks ago, and he’s getting better and better every week.”
The Eagles defensive line finally generated some pressure on Ritter and sacked him twice on the Fighting Irish’s next possession, forcing them to punt from their own end zone. The punt was deflected and went out of bounds at the St. Patrick 10, where Latral Waller scored from on the next play to make it 32-17.
Just before halftime Daniels added to the lead with a 20-yard touchdown scamper on a designed quarterback sweep to make it 40-17 following East Marion’s fifth two-point conversion of the game.
Both teams had long drives stall in the red zone thanks to penalties, so the score held the rest of the way.